'Misery and vexation of spirit'

"I am so surrounded with troubles and difficulties of every kind...". FitzRoy's letter to his sister of 6 November 1834. CUL MS Add. 8853/46, f. 125

The Beagle finally rounded Cape Horn and reached the west coast of South America in June 1834, but the rest of the year was a difficult one. Most of it was spent checking and re-checking Admiralty charts around the island of Chiloé and the Chonos archipelago of southern Chile in incessant rain. FitzRoy, depressed and struggling to comply with Admiralty instructions, came close to resigning his commission. Darwin hated the temperate rain forest with its dense tangles of falling trees and rotting vegetation. He wrote home: ‘I forget whether you were at home, when my friend Mr Proctor was there, & told us about the place, where his Uncle says it never ceases to rain; I am sure he must have meant Chiloe.—’ As the Beagle crawled around the complex coastline he headed north on land whenever he could, rejoining the ship at intervals. These excursions, covering many hundreds of miles on horseback, were major undertakings in a brutal and politically unstable environment. Often travelling without maps, and speaking little of the local language, Darwin had learned to hire guides and horses, find supplies, hunt for food, and cook his own meals.